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Why The NBA All-Star Game Doesn’t Matter

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard is a can’t-miss for the All-Star Game, Damian Lillard got hosed by the NBA—how could he not make the All-Star Game; Whew, Damian Lillard got named as a replacement for the All-Star Game …

Somebody make it all stop. I want the last few weeks of my life back.

Because really other than Lillard’s immediate family -- and I’m not even talking first cousins here -- what difference does it make to any of us as fans if Lillard gets invited to an exhibition game that gives the word “meaningless” a bad name.

This isn’t one more argument about whether Lillard or now-perennial All Star lock LaMarcus Aldridge would benefit more by resting during the All-Star break. They’re young, they’re resilient and really, they could get hurt just as easily opening the charter plane door if they jetted off to Aruba for the break. 

Instead, the question is who even remembers what Lillard did a year ago after we first went through this “will-he-or-won’t he” nonsense before his initial All-Star Game (nine points in less than nine minutes off the bench, if you must know), or how Aldridge performed (four points in about 13 minutes) or which team even won the game (the East beat the West 163-155—no, that’s not a misprint).

Besides the late singer Marvin Gaye’s incredibly soulful rendition of the National Anthem before the 1983 All-Star game or Magic Johnson’s storybook 1992 All-Star Game after coming back to play following his retirement following his announcement that he contracted HIV, who can remember any All-Star Game “moment” from the past few decades.

The only real moment that can come out of the upcoming All-Star weekend for Portland is whether the city can land the game – an admitted economic boon for the host city -- for the first time since entering the league in 1970.

That’s because -- like the NFL’s ridiculous postseason Pro Bowl or the NHL’s virtual check-less All-Star Game -- the NBA’s All-Star Game has become a showcase for no defense, excessive clowning and points scored at a pinball machine rate. (For what it’s worth, even MLB’s once-intense All-Star Game has been diluted in recent years with interleague play and an insistence that both teams carry rosters larger than the cast for “A Chorus Line.”)

But as a Trail Blazer fan, surely it must be a point of pride to see Lillard and Aldridge getting national recognition in this Sunday’s All-Star Game that validates and enshrines them as two of the league’s best for this era. Um, not really.

Lillard and Aldridge will ultimately be judged in fans’ memories by how far they take the Trail Blazers in the playoffs, not by whether they break into double figures or need a “heat check” in a midseason exhibition game nobody will ever remember. 

So just like last season when both Lillard and Aldridge get deserved credit for finally lifting the team out of the first round, their season this year will be judged on whether they can carry the Trail Blazers even deeper in the playoffs. 

A bit of Trail Blazers history here to illustrate the previous point: Is four-time All-Star Sidney Wicks somehow remembered twice as fondly as two-time All-Star Terry Porter or do fans treasure Porter’s huge contribution to deep Trail Blazers playoff runs more than Wicks’ failure to lift admittedly weak teams into the playoffs?  Does the fact that Steve Johnson made the All-Star team as a Trail Blazer and Porter teammate Buck Williams never did when he played on Portland’s Western Conference champion teams somehow elevate Johnson over Williams?

The obvious answer to both questions is no -the same answer to the question of “Do I care whether Lillard made the All-Star Game?”

A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.


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